On Saturday, November 4th 2017, a small group of members met at the track for our first ever 'learning to run steam' day. There were 7 students, 3 instructors, and 2 coal-fired steam locomotives present for the event. We began at 9 AM. First the instructors went around introducing ourselves and giving some of our background. The three instructors were Bob Auchenbaugh, Alan Woodyard and Scott Reedy. The three instructors combined have over 100 years of experience with large-scale live steam.
We then had about 45 minutes of 'classroom' type training. The design and the functions of the locomotive boiler were discussed, along with the nomenclature for some of the most important parts. Emphasis was placed on keeping the water level right to protect the boiler. Some of the physics behind the boiler operations were explained. We then explained the order of importance when it comes to actually operating a steam locomotive. That order is (1) water level, (2) Track conditions/Traffic, (3) Fire, (4) Lubrication. A lot of emphasis was placed on safety first.
The group of students then split up into two groups and accompanied the instructors to the steaming bays where the two locomotives were fired up from a cold-start. Students then took turns running the locomotives around the lower loop of the track for the next several hours. Students typically got at least 4 or 5 laps on a locomotive to try to hone their throttle skills and learn to add coal and water while on the move. The day's lessons ended at about 3:30 PM when the last of the two steamers was blown down.